William Hartnell was the first TV Doctor. A veteran of stage and screen, Hartnell saw the role as an ideal opportunity to break away from the tough sergeant major roles he often found himself cast in. He got to wear a long grey wig too.
Far less cosy than future Doctors, this first incarnation definitely started out as something of an anti-hero. In stories such as The Daleks, Hartnells’ Doctor would place his companions in jeopardy for the sake of his own curiosity.
Stories throughout the first Doctor’s era tended to alternate between fantastical science fiction stories and historical tales. One week, the Doctor would be battling giant ants on the Web Planet, the next encountering Richard the Lionheart during the Crusade.
A combination of ill-health and changing production team influenced William Hartnell’s decision to retire from the role that had made him a hero to millions of children.
Rather than end the show, the producers hit upon an inspired solution. They decided to re-cast the lead role, explaining that the Doctor could ‘regenerate’ a tired or injured body, taking on a new persona along the way.
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